I’ve been sick since 2014. I came down with a cold between Christmas and New Year’s that I’m still trying to shake. It’s been frustrating because, arbitrary or not, the new calendar year is a nice reset button and I’d’ve loved to hit the ground running. Literally, sort of. I mean, I spent most of 2014 injured and I want to get back into a running routine. But other stuff too. Instead I’m coughing and mostly keeping on top of the usual crap and saying, “when I’m feeling 100% again” then I’ll go to the climbing gym, go for a run, start getting my taxes in order, finally get rental insurance, figure out whether I can really afford to buy my ex-husband’s car from him…
2014 was all right. I mean, actually, it was pretty good. I learned a lot and I did a lot this year. I finalized my divorce and figured out how to be friends with my ex. I moved into my own apartment and painted my furniture purple. I walked all 30.25 miles of Wildwood Trail in a day, alone, twice. I didn’t do a pull-up or run an ultramarathon, but I did climb a V3 problem at the bouldering gym, ride two centuries on my bike, ride a borrowed mountain bike 13 miles on a trail above my skill & comfort level, place fourth in my first (and so far only) cyclocross race on another borrowed bike, and summit my first glaciated peak (South Sister). I broke up with my boyfriend and went on a bunch of dates and got back together and practiced, with varying degrees of success, communication and boundary-setting and intentionality and respect. I got a lot of happy hour drinks with my brother. I snuggled with my cats. I got a raise at work and switched from an hourly wage to a salary. I photographed some great weddings. I wrote out Antonio Machado’s line of poetry: “caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar”—which I found in Brené Brown’s excellent book Daring Greatly—and framed it and put it where I would see it every day. Traveler, there is no road. The road is made by walking.
I’ve made some goals for 2015, as follows:
* learn CSS & use it to create a portfolio website for my photography business
* run, but don’t get injured (after being overly ambitious in 2013 and, as alluded to above, spending most of 2014 with various tendon issues, the second part of this goal is marginally more important than the first)
* climb outside (top rope or bouldering; ideally both!)
* set & stick to a budget; set aside savings for my 2016 PCT thru-hike
* do an unassisted pull-up (on last year’s list, too, as mentioned)
* go on a week-long backpacking trip (right now I’m leaning towards the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier)
* work towards the following habits: bringing a healthy packed lunch to work every day & keeping my apartment clean / putting things away immediately
I snuck a mention of my planned 2016 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in there. Did you catch it? Dear readers, I am obsessed right now with this journey I am going to make. I am living in that dream, willing the next 500 days to pass so I can start my hike. I’ve read a million blogs and a billion gear reviews and I bought a new sleeping bag that’s warming my feet as I type. The other day I made myself a rain skirt out of cuben fiber and velcro. It weighs just over one ounce and packs down super tiny.
But I’ve done this before, about other things. And I’ve been thinking about that, too. When I was a teenager all I wanted to do was go to Paris and sit on the steps below Sacre Coeur. When I was in college all I wanted to do was ride trains all over Europe with a backpack. In my early 20’s all I wanted to do was ride my bike across the country. After that I wanted to live on a farm. And then, be married. And then, come home to Portland.
I did it all… I spent a week alone in Paris when I was 17, lonely and exhilarated. I saw every piece of art in the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. When I was 22 I spent seven weeks in November and December with a Eurail pass. I read a lot of books and drank gluhwein at Christmas markets and got lost in Spain. In 2010 I rode my bike from Portland to Virginia. It was hard and amazing and beautiful just like I knew it would be. The next year I spent six months living in my tent on a permaculture farm, tending baby plants and living in intentional community and rediscovering how much I love to take photos. The year after that I got married. The year after that I moved home.
Now, I don’t dream about Paris. There are lots of places I’d rather go than Europe, which is just as well because it sure is expensive. I haven’t gone on an overnight trip on my bike in years. I can’t keep my houseplants alive and I let my plot in my mom’s garden get overgrown and weedy this summer. I’m divorced. And I’m not so sure anymore that I’ll grow old in Portland.
I wrote this when I was riding my bike across Kansas:
i ran into a westbound cyclist the other day who asked me (as folks occasionally do) what i do that i can take this time off to ride across the country. i said i was between jobs and that, actually, i was sort of using this ride as a vision quest to work on figuring out what i want to do next. he asked me if it’s working (”yeah, sort of”) and told me that in his experience you come home from these trips feeling like anything is possible, but within a couple weeks you end up mired in the same stuff you were before you left.
I guess I am wondering if what I am most of all is an escapist. Perpetually hoping that the next life-changing thing will be the one that really changes my life, that makes the difference, that sticks. I don’t know. It’s not that I’m back in the same mire I was in when I was 16 and longing for Amélie’s Montmartre—god, no. But I’m still just as bad at appreciating the road I’m walking now. Whatever road it is. It’s mine to make. Aphorism, aphorism. I guess I feel unsettled by my own discontentment. All these identities I’ve claimed and then let slip away.
I want to reckon with my responsibility for the end of my marriage. And for the beginning of my marriage, too. I want to figure out what I’m going for. What I want. If I’ll never know, or never find it, I want to come to terms with that.
Wrestling with the angels. Bring it on, 2015. What do you have to teach me? I want to learn. I’m ready.